Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) today announced Senate passage of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which will improve air travel and make important airport upgrades in South Dakota and across the nation. The bipartisan legislation includes a four year reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) after 23 short-term authorizations since 2007. The legislation now moves to the President for his signature.
“I’m glad that Republicans and Democrats have finally come together to pass a long-term FAA reauthorization. This four year bill will mean safer, more efficient air travel for South Dakotans and improvements to the Essential Air Service to keep airlines flying in communities like Aberdeen, Huron and Watertown,” said Johnson. “A modern, efficient air transportation system is critical to our nation’s economy.”
The legislation strengthens the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), which provides grants to local airports to make improvements and repairs, as well as professional services like planning, surveying and design. According to the American Association of Airport Executives, $1 billion in AIP funds could create or protect up to 35,000 jobs. This bill provides $3.35 billion annually through fiscal year 2015 for the program.
South Dakotans will also benefit from continuation of the Essential Air Service Program (EAS) to ensure that it’s affordable to get to small cities and towns across the country. Currently, Aberdeen, Huron and Watertown participate in the program. This legislation provides $190 million for EAS nationwide and also provides incentives to encourage better service and reduce the program’s cost. The House proposal would have phased out this program entirely except for Alaska and Hawaii.
Since the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 lasts through the 2015 fiscal year, the legislation prevents the kind of devastating FAA shutdown we saw last year. During that time, roughly 74,000 workers were taken off the job and the government lost an estimated $468 million in tax revenues.
“This FAA reauthorization will provide workers and passengers alike with the certainty they need after far too many disagreements in Washington over the years. Airport managers and local leaders will now able to plan for the future and move forward with improvement projects that keep workers on the job all across the nation,” continued Johnson.